Endangered Languages in Putin's Russia

Endangered Languages in Putin's Russia
Karina Sheifer, Department of Linguistics, Dartmouth College

September 28, 2023
4:30 pm*
Moore Hall/Filene Auditorium
Reception to follow

The talk examines the interdependence of political upheaval, social adversity, and the preservation of endangered languages in today's Russia. Over the course of President Putin's two-decade rule, a series of legal norms have gradually infringed upon the language rights of minority communities. Russia's chauvinistic course was further cemented in the rewritten constitution in 2020, explicitly declaring the Russian language people as the "state-forming" nation. Amidst Russia's aggression against Ukraine and pressures on Indigenous activists, the Putin administration perceives the development of minority language communities as a national threat. Nevertheless, the official narrative is presented as respectful towards minority languages. About 150 indigenous languages of Russia face substantial administrative pressure from the dominant Russian language, even deep in taiga. Dozens of languages are nearly extinct, with less than a hundred native speakers, and in order to be preserved and revitalized, they require decisive measures that are impossible under the Putin regime.

Karina Sheifer is a researcher at the Department of Linguistics of Dartmouth College and the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She is a field linguist with expertise in Indigenous languages of Siberia and the Far East, namely Northern Tungusic (Evenki and Even), Siberian Turkic (Dolgan and Yakut), and Chukotko-Kamchatkan (Itelmen and Chukchi). Her fieldwork seeks the preservation, digitalization, and revitalization of extremely endangered languages. Although her main research interest is in linguistics, an integral part of her work is an interaction with minority national communities in terms of education and promotion of Indigenous languages, literatures, and cultures.

Free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the Russian Department